The Real World: Boston

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The very first season I watched of "The Real World" from beginning until end was the Boston season, when I was 13. This was around the time that reality TV was just beginning to pick up in the mainstream, and my only previous exposure to it had been "Bug Juice" on the Disney Channel (another great show!). I don't know that there was a name for that documentary-style television at the time ... I thought of it as more of a documentary or observational study of human nature.

At 13, Montana, Sean, Kameelah, Jason, Syrus, Genesis and Elka were completely and utterly fascinating to me. Montana was the emblem of the independent woman and the kind of lady I wanted to be when I grew up. I don't even know how much of my beliefs have come from watching MTV, but I'm sure the answer is "a significant amount." Which is simultaneously scary and interesting.

After Boston and its cohorts were placed in the MTV vault, the only opportunities to relive that summer were through short clips in MTV's desperate compilation shows. I have longed for years and years to go back and revisit "The Real World: Boston," first for entertainment purposes, then for sentimental reasons, and now to serve as a point of comparison.

My long-time wishes were answered when I stumbled across (and I can't even remember how!) the entire "Real World: Boston" series on YouTube! And even more unbelievable is how clear my memories of a television show from 15 years ago are. Except one thing -- I'd forgotten Jason's existence entirely, and now that I'm rewatching, I have a very good idea why.


What's funny to me now:
  1. the fact that I never once tried to visit the Boston house (127 Mt. Vernon Street) while living in the area. Apparently I've strolled stunningly close (one block) to it on several occasions. The firehouse remains a firehouse, though it currently houses a non-profit called Hill House.
  2. how old everyone still looks to me. When I was in my early teens, I thought everyone age 17 above looked incredibly mature. When I turned 18 and 19, I looked back at my old school yearbooks and realized that the 17 and 18 year-olds of my younger years still looked really old to me, but I chalked it up to the makeup and fashion trends of the time -- dark, dark, dark. I'm going to say that this is the reason 21-year-old Montana still looks to me like she could pass for 32.
  3. how low-end the house looks in comparison to the houses of the early '00s and beyond look. This Boston house is furnished by IKEA! No hot tub and it doesn't even have laundry facilities!
  4. the liberal use of Hanson's music in this season.
  5. how they introduced the cast by visiting them in their hometowns.
  6. ... and how little they integrated the city of Boston into the show. I recall subsequent seasons showing more of the surroundings, but I guess Boston (especially in the wintertime) isn't all that exciting, and I might be biased because I know the area so well.
  7. how I keep expecting Boston to look tremendously different from the time I lived there, about 5 years later. It doesn't, at all. A lot of the stores they go into are still there, 15 years later.
  8. that the Boston season actually isn't that exciting or different from any of the seasons after it. I think it was because it was my first season ever, and the concept was still so new to me. And add to that the fact that I was only 13.
What was your favorite-ever season of "The Real World" if you watched the show? I stopped watching regularly after the Paris season in 2003, but admit to tuning in occasionally through the D.C. season in 2010. My favorite seasons are Boston (1997), Chicago (2002), Paris and D.C. I had a real fondness for the less dramatic seasons. What "The Real World" has taught me, more than anything, is that people aren't all that different from one another at all, and I think that was probably one of the initial intentions of reality television. So maybe reality television serves a purpose after all?

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